No impact from farmers' blockade on refinery operations - Total

No impact from farmers' blockade on refinery operations - Total

The minister called on angry protesters to join talks to find "adequate solutions".

"This blockade can not be the solution to the discussion that we are going to have".

French farmers launched blockades of the country's 14 refineries and hundreds of Total S.A. fuel depots since Sunday evening to protest imports of low cost palm oil for manufacturing biofuel, a move they denounce as unfair competition that jeopardizes their livelihood. "It concerns South American meat and Spanish wine as well as palm oil", said Damien Greffon, who leads the FRSEA farmers' union in the Paris region.

A total of 16 sites were blocked on Monday afternoon, France's largest farm union FNSEA (National Federation of Agricultural Holders' Unions) said on Twitter. The companies, on the other hand, have urged people to not panic-buy gas as it would result in shortages.

Agriculture Minister Stephane Travert said Monday that the government would not back down, adding that he would meet soon with unions as well as biofuels producers to discuss supplies and pricing.

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The move came after the French energy giant Total chose to use a cheaper, imported palm oil at its biofuel plant. Environmentalists also blame palm oil cultivation for deforestation in southeast Asia.

Total's initiative to import palm oil for its biofuel plant was just "the last straw", the representative added.

The number of French farms decreased by 7 percent past year and their bankruptcies rose by the proportion in France as a whole despite economy growth, according to the national statistical institute INSEE.

Total argues that its refining plan involves less palm oil than allowed by the authorities, offers an outlet for local rapeseed and will develop large-scale recycling of used oil and fat. Palm oil is cheaper than rapeseed oil.

Small farmers in Malaysia, the world's second largest palm oil producer after Indonesia, said a move to cap palm oil exports at an European Union level would be discriminatory and a "betrayal".

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